John Frederic Herbin published the following excerpt stating that it was from Historical and Genealogical Record of the First Settlers of Colchester County, by Thomas Miller, had been recorded as told by an Acadian woman who witnessed the events:
"On the second day of September, 1755, the French inhabitants of Cobequid Village (now Masstown), lying on the north side of the bay, and upper part of the Township of Londonderry, were engaged in their fields at their work, it being harvest time. With the afternoon Tide three vessels were seen coming up to the Bay. Two of them prepared to anchor, one opposite the Village, and the other at Lower Cobequid, whilst the third ran further up the shore. Curiosity was high! Who were they, and where were they going? Their curiosity was still heightened by the appearance of a person in the garb of a curate, who informed them that a notice telling the inhabitants of the village of Cobequid, and the surrounding shores, as well ancient as young men and lads, ordering them all to be at the Church the next day at 3:00p.m. The order had been signed by John Winslow.
When the men and boys in the Church were read the Order, they were speechless with terror; death stared them in the face. Three hundred men and boys found themselves prisoners in their own Church. Some of the boys screamed aloud, some attempted to force the door, but they were overawed by the muskets of their guards.
Much has been written about that terribly frightening day. Once the deportation was in motion, one woman who had either escaped or been left behind because of overcrowding, returned to her former place of abode, and there remained during the night altogether unconscious. In the morning, when she returned to consciousness she was too weak to stand; it was some hours before she realized the full horror of her situation. After a time she was able to crawl to the door, and there the scene which surounded her was fearful. The first object she beheld was the Church, the beautiful Mass House, a blackened heap of ruins. She was recalled to a sense of her forlorn situation by her cow which came to her, asking by her lowing to be milked. She milked her cow and partook of some of the milk with a crust of bread, which revived her so much that she set out to see if she could find any one remaining in the village; but there was no one to be found. cattle had broken into the fields, and were eating the wheat; horses were running in droves through the fields. On the evening of that day, cows and goats came to their accustomed milkingplace and lowed around the desertd dwellings; pigs yet fastened in the pens squealed with hunger; and the oxen, waiting in vain for the master's hand to free them from the yhoke (for they were used in moving the goods to the vessels), were bellowing in agony of hunger; they hooked and fought with each other, running through the marsh, upsetting the carts or tumbling into ditches, until death put an end to their sufferings. The pigs were rooting up the gardens.
This woman sat down on the doorstep beholding the desolation of the Village, when an Indian approached her, and told her to come with him. She inquired the fate of her people. Gone, said he, all gone, pointing down to the Bay; the people everywhere are prisoners; see the smoke rise, they will burn all here tonight. He pointed up the Bay; two or three blazing fires attested the Indian's story as too true. He assisted her in gathering some of the most valuable things that were left. The Indian then piloted her to his wigwam, near the edge of the forest; here she found about a dozen of her people, the remnant left of what was once the happy settlement of the village of Cobequid.
They waited about the woods on the north side of the Bay for more than a month to see if any more stragglers could be found before they would start to go to Miramichi. At length they were joined by about twenty of the French inhabitants who had escaped from Annapolis (Port-Royal). These persons informed them that the houses and crops in Annapolis were burnt by the soldiers who were sent the river to bring them to the ships. Some fled to the woods; some, besides this party, crossed the Bay, intending to go to Miramichi through the woods.
After another week's travel, they met with a party that had escaped from Shepoudie (now called Shubenacadie). From these persons they learned that about two hundred and fifty buildings were burned along the sides of the river, and that while they were firing the Mass House there, the Indians and French rallied and attacked the British soldiers, and killed and wounded about thirty of them, and drove the remainder back to the ships."
When John Frederic Herbin wrote his book, this is what he thought and saw as he looked across what once was the thriving, bustling, lively village of Grand-Pré: A commerative structure of a permanent character will before long be erected at Grand-Pré. In the history of this part of Acadia it was the most clearly marked and important place in Minas. Winslow and his soldiers were encamped there in 1755. It was the last to be destroyed when the Acadians were removed. Grand-Pré is the home of Longfellow's "Evangeline", and a stone memorial there would be fitting to perpetuate the name of the poet, as well as to mark the spot he has made famous, and to stand among the few landmarks of the departed people which have come down to us from their day. The row of willows they set out alongside the church road must in time fall into decay. The depression in the earth which was once a cellar will be filled up. The well may cease to exist. The site of the Acadian church is less plainly discernible every year. Not a trace remains of the cemetery. Time is obliterating the Acadian roads. Imperishable marble should now mark the place, and tell its history to the many persons who come every year to look upon what remains of the once populous Grand-Pré of the Acadians. A fund is now being raised for the purpose of making of this ground an Acadian and Longfellow Memorial Park.
And so today, at this very location stands the Grand-Pré National Historical Park - All that John Frederic hoped for has come to pass - his was a great vision equalling the legacy he left us as a tribute to his Mother's People, The Acadians. Through the efforts of Herbin in purchasing the land and in the end donating it to the government of Nova Scotia, it has, ironic as it may seem, been made a National Historic Park by the government. The location of the well remains well marked; the Memorial Church of St-Charles has been built where the original Church once stood; a beautiful statue of Evangeline stands before the walk to the Church looking whistfully out to the sea; there is a haunting memory where it is believed the cemetery once was (many who visit say they feel the presence of their ancestors); vestiges of the dykes can still be seen; the now immense almost 400 year old Willows still stand - once as silent witnesses to all that happened in September of 1755 - now as silent witnesses to all who come to remember the ancestors who gave life and breath to this land they called their beloved Acadia!
VIVE L'ACADIE! LONG LIVE ACADIA! .. if not in fact, then in our hearts and spirits!
NOTE: This book, The History of Grand-Pré (Fourth Edition) by John Frederic Herbin was originally written in the ninteenth century, it was thought worthy of reprint by Heritage Classics. When Herbin wrote his book, he cited himself as being The only descendant of the Exiled People now living in the Grand-Pré of the Acadians. At the time, he was living in Wolfville which borders Grand-Pré.
All these years later, his grandson who is also an Herbin, had this book reprinted on time for CMA 2004. It may be purchased from the Boutique at Grand Pré by going to their website. During the summer of 2004, it was my pleasure to meet Mr. Herbin's great granddaughter who was working at the Boutique.